Monday, August 15, 2005

Game Store Confidential ~ continued

Hmmmm… let’s see, this was the bag from the back room and this bag…

I leaned well into the dumpster to reach the other plastic garbage bag.

… this might be the one from the front of the store!

And it was. I spied the empty gray sprues from a copy of Battle Cry I had opened and started on last week. I had only gotten the Rebels off their sprues though when people started to come into the store to annoy and distract me. I had to put the game up for another day. Now there I was at 9:30PM, several days later, digging through a dumpster behind my store.

Dumpster diving in small towns is an activity that is fraught with all manner of potential consequences that are meaningless in cities. To begin with, there are maybe 18,000 total residents of the county that my little spread - lovingly named Mosquito Acres in honor of the West Nile Virus - is ensconced in. And probably 10,000 of them have seen the game store. And probably 2,500 of them have seen me. And probably 500 of them know who I am. And the other 17,500 know the 500 who know who I am and… well, you get my drift. Being seen scrounging through a dumpster in the fading evening light might put a blemish, however slight, on my stellar reputation as an outstanding community member who has only spooked 117 horses and 3200 cows late at night when a Harley with a fine set of unbaffled Street Sweeper pipes sounds the best.

But the business at hand was serious.

Having pulled my new copy of Battle Cry out earlier because my local buddy, Bode, wanted to play, I discovered a Confederate infantry flag bearer was missing. We searched high and we searched low. But it was gone. I wracked my brain, trying to remember… did I take everything off the sprue? Of course I did. I’m no rookie. I’m a gamer of long-standing and high marks. I haven’t lost a counter, sprue or piece for probably 25 years.

I’m not anal, just efficient.

And I was getting just a bit annoyed. Dumpsters stink.

So anyway, after Bode and I played a couple of scenarios with the errant Rebel missing, I slipped out the back door and started the garbage bag hunt. I had two bags on the old table next to the dumpster and when I gingerly rummaged through the obvious bag I came up empty.

WTF?

If the missing Confederate wasn’t on the sprue and he wasn’t loose in the bag, and he wasn’t in the box… then where the hell was he? I ought to do a Google search on Confederate desertions just to see if karma is somehow in play here. Being a native Texan with deep roots to Tennessee, my family always refers to the American Civil War by the more appropriate title: The War of Northern Aggression. So maybe my errant Rebel was just a coward. Or perhaps a Yankee spy. Or it could be that Great-GrandPappy times six had put a blemish on the ancestral karma meter by killing one Yankee too many and that debt had come to haunt me 150 years later.

Sure enough, when Bode and I played the Pea Ridge scenario I needed all 10 infantry flags. The Union didn’t, as they had fewer men on the ground, so I borrowed a blue Union flag bearer from Bode’s forces. It looked like crap. Blech! Battle Cry looks cool because it has cool components. Having a Union guy in amongst my Confederates just felt… wrong. I know, I know, it’s just a game and it plays the same and even if I used dice for the men it would still be a good game. Or would it? The excellence and simplicity of the design would be the same, true. But when Borg designed the game I’m certain he had imagery in his head that wasn’t too far off from Avalon Hill’s final product. I like his game design, his imagery and Avalon Hill’s execution of the two.

Frankly, I felt incomplete. Did I mention I was also getting annoyed?

I imagine that’s what people who buy $50,000 sports cars feel like when they have a flat tire and are forced to drive on that goofy, skinny little spare thingie. Tell me that doesn't look totally dumb. I always motor by on my Hog real slow like and give them my best Jesse James biker-guy leer.

But back to the business at hand, which was to do a quick check of the other two garbage bags while stooping low enough behind the dumpster that any cars passing by wouldn’t see me and then standing upright and walking nonchalantly back to the dumpster and dropping the bags in as if it was the first time I’d thrown them out.

Am I being anal? Nah… I’m just a creature of habit. I Ziploc everything. I do a count on the parts. I personally put away my own games so I know what to expect when I open them again. I also feel weird when something I know should be in a game box goes missing. And I suppose I’m serious enough about it that I would slink into a dumpster, risking my untarnished reputation, for a game piece that might have an actual cash value of perhaps a nickel.

What’s funny is that if you and I were standing next to a random dumpster and you said, “Hey DW, I’ll give you $100 to jump into that dumpster.” I’d say no. But the prospect of retrieving a missing piece from a game that I could buy two copies of for the same $100 got me halfway into the nasty thing for nothing.

I’m not anal about games. I just happen to hate it when something isn’t where it’s supposed to be. It annoys me.

When I opened the store the following day one of the local gamers and his two gamer cousins came right in. I was surprised because I rarely saw these three that early in the day. Not to mention, they were acting oddly, sort of casting furtive glances in my direction and milling about with a strange, hunted looks on their faces.

“So, uh, what’s up guys?’

“Oh nuthin.” “Nope, just checking it out DW.” “Yep, just, you know Dawg, checking things out Bro”

That last comment was from Robbie, a 19 year old pasty white farm boy from Ruralsville, Middle America, who loves the street language that doesn’t exist on any of the streets within 600 miles of here.

They all came to the counter with piddly little items to buy. Stuff these three never even had on their radar, like CCG packs and some loser $10 card game.

“What’s this all about guys? You buying for someone’s birthday?”

“Nah… well, it’s just that we were coming back from the grocery store last night and when we went down the street there on the side of the building, Robbie looked over and you were….”

They then stammered out the story: they surmised that since I was pawing through the dumpster after hours that things must be bad with business and they decided to… well… you get it I’m sure. I figured I’d better explain real quick what the deal was before these three ended up buying the wrong games. But before I could open my mouth --

“Whoa! Hey DW! Is that Battle Cry?”

Lyle, the older, wiser and more mature of the three had spotted my copy. I answered that it was indeed Battle Cry, hence the words BATTLE CRY on the box. Lyle insisted we sit down and play right away. He loves Memoir ’44 and always wanted to try the earlier design.

“Sure Lyle… we can play. But you’re the frickin’ Yankees and I don’t want to play the Pea Ridge scenario.”

“Sure DW. Whatever. Hey you two, here’s a twenty, run down and get us some sandwiches and drinks will ya? DW’s looking kind of gaunt and rangy.”

I think I need a career change.

6 comments:

sodaklady said...

I'm so glad to hear you're not anal--who needs THAT kind of pressure?

Great post, DW.

Yehuda said...

Keep it coming.

alt said...

I'll sell you my flag bearer for $99.

gamesgrandpa said...

Another great story. I think I would enjoy hanging around your store for a while, just to see what other situations you will get into.

I look forward to your next revelation.

{Not anal, my foot!}

Shawn said...

Face it Tripp, you're anal whether you choose to call it efficient or other wise! : ) I know because I'm like that too. Glad to hear you found the flagbearer.

Steadman said...

Great story! Thanks for laugh "Manly Man"!